Nav: Home

Mayo Clinic receives federal grant to fund clinical test of breast cancer vaccine

September 15, 2015

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Researchers on Mayo Clinic's Florida campus have been awarded a $13.3 million, five-year federal grant to test a vaccine designed to prevent the recurrence of triple-negative breast cancer, a subset of breast cancer for which there are no targeted therapies.

The clinical trial, which will enroll 280 patients at multiple clinical sites, is expected to begin early in 2016.

The grant, the Breakthrough Award from the U.S. Department of Defense's Breast Cancer Research Program, will fund a national, phase II clinical trial testing the ability of a folate receptor alpha vaccine to prevent recurrence of this aggressive cancer following initial treatment.

A 22-patient phase I clinical trial, previously conducted by the grant's principal investigator, Keith Knutson, Ph.D., in the Department of Immunology at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus, found the vaccine was safe. It did not induce autoimmunity -- a failure of the body's immune system to recognize its own cells and tissues as "self" -- as some vaccines can.

The vaccine was designed by Dr. Knutson and initially tested by researchers at Mayo Clinic's Rochester, Minnesota, campus for safety and its ability to stimulate the immune system.

It exploits the need of triple-negative breast cancer to take in folic acid, an essential vitamin, to grow, says Dr. Knutson. Because of that need, these tumors overproduce the folate receptor alpha, which latches on to folic acid in the tumor's microenvironment.

Evidence shows some patients naturally produce an immune response to parts of these receptors, "but the cancer is much too strong for what is typically a weak immune response," says Dr. Knutson.

The vaccine is designed to boost the immune system to rapidly react to presence of the receptor on cancer cells early in the course of tumor recurrence.

"We believe this vaccine will provide a much more robust and sustained immune response to these receptors, which will then improve the body's ability to directly or indirectly kill the tumor by cutting off access to the folate it needs to respond to cancer if it begins to re-emerge in these patients," he says.

The grant is a collaborative effort among Mayo Clinic's clinicians, clinical researchers and basic science researchers, says Edith Perez, M.D., a breast cancer researcher at the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center in Florida. Dr. Perez is a partner and principal investigator on the grant with Dr. Knutson.

"Continued improvements in therapies for patients with triple-negative breast cancer are one of our most important research goals," Dr. Perez says. "We owe it to our patients to develop studies such as the ones that will now be possible because of this grant."
Mayo Clinic and Dr. Knutson have a financial interest in the technology referenced in this news release. TapImmune Inc. has a license for the vaccine and will supply it for the trial.

About Mayo Clinic Cancer Center

As a leading institution funded by the National Cancer Institute, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center conducts basic, clinical and population science research, translating discoveries into improved methods for prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and therapy. For information on cancer clinical trials, call 1-855-776-0015 (toll-free).

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to medical research and education, and providing expert, whole-person care to everyone who needs healing. For more information, visit or

MEDIA CONTACT: Kevin Punsky, Mayo Clinic Public Affairs, 904-953-0746,

MULTIMEDIA ALERT: Video and audio of Dr. Knutson are available for download on the Mayo Clinic News Network.

Mayo Clinic

Related Breast Cancer Articles:

Breast cancer: AI predicts which pre-malignant breast lesions will progress to advanced cancer
New research at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, could help better determine which patients diagnosed with the pre-malignant breast cancer commonly as stage 0 are likely to progress to invasive breast cancer and therefore might benefit from additional therapy over and above surgery alone.
Partial breast irradiation effective treatment option for low-risk breast cancer
Partial breast irradiation produces similar long-term survival rates and risk for recurrence compared with whole breast irradiation for many women with low-risk, early stage breast cancer, according to new clinical data from a national clinical trial involving researchers from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - Arthur G.
Breast screening linked to 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer death in first 10 years
Women who take part in breast screening have a significantly greater benefit from treatments than those who are not screened, according to a study of more than 50,000 women.
More clues revealed in link between normal breast changes and invasive breast cancer
A research team, led by investigators from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, details how a natural and dramatic process -- changes in mammary glands to accommodate breastfeeding -- uses a molecular process believed to contribute to survival of pre-malignant breast cells.
Breast tissue tumor suppressor PTEN: A potential Achilles heel for breast cancer cells
A highly collaborative team of researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina and Ohio State University report in Nature Communications that they have identified a novel pathway for connective tissue PTEN in breast cancer cell response to radiotherapy.
Computers equal radiologists in assessing breast density and associated breast cancer risk
Automated breast-density evaluation was just as accurate in predicting women's risk of breast cancer, found and not found by mammography, as subjective evaluation done by radiologists, in a study led by researchers at UC San Francisco and Mayo Clinic.
Blood test can effectively rule out breast cancer, regardless of breast density
A new study published in PLOS ONE demonstrates that Videssa® Breast, a multi-protein biomarker blood test for breast cancer, is unaffected by breast density and can reliably rule out breast cancer in women with both dense and non-dense breast tissue.
Study shows influence of surgeons on likelihood of removal of healthy breast after breast cancer dia
Attending surgeons can have a strong influence on whether a patient undergoes contralateral prophylactic mastectomy after a diagnosis of breast cancer, according to a study published by JAMA Surgery.
Young breast cancer patients undergoing breast conserving surgery see improved prognosis
A new analysis indicates that breast cancer prognoses have improved over time in young women treated with breast conserving surgery.
Does MRI plus mammography improve detection of new breast cancer after breast conservation therapy?
A new article published by JAMA Oncology compares outcomes for combined mammography and MRI or ultrasonography screenings for new breast cancers in women who have previously undergone breast conservation surgery and radiotherapy for breast cancer initially diagnosed at 50 or younger.
More Breast Cancer News and Breast Cancer Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at